‘It’s not an easy comeback’

For the first time, Utah quarterback Cam Rising revealed the severity of the knee injury he suffered during last season’s Rose Bowl.

During his weekly appearance on ESPN 700 in Salt Lake City, Rising said his injury went beyond just an ACL tear.

“I wasn’t really expecting to do this but I think it’s important that I just let everybody know that I didn’t just tear my ACL. I tore my ACL, meniscus, MPFL and MCL,” Rising said Thursday. “It was a big surgery and it’s not an easy comeback. I’ve been working my tail off.”

Rising helped lead Utah to Pac-12 titles and Rose Bowl appearances in 2021 and 2022 and the timetable for his return from injury was the subject of much speculation throughout the offseason. Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham and even Rising himself expressed optimism that he could potentially return in time for the season opener vs. Florida, but he was unable to suit up.

More than a month after the Utes’ season began, Rising still has not seen the field. Before Thursday, Rising had not offered specifics about the seriousness of his knee injury. He noted that other quarterbacks, like Kyler Murray and Hendon Hooker, have experienced similar injuries and chosen not to play at all this season.

Utah quarterback Cameron Rising hasn't played this season as he continues to recover from a serious knee injury suffered during the Rose Bowl in January. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

Utah quarterback Cameron Rising hasn’t played this season as he continues to recover from a serious knee injury suffered during the Rose Bowl in January. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

That is not Rising’s intention. He hopes to be back on the field for Utah, but not without getting clearance from Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the head physician for the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Dodgers who performed Rising’s surgery.

“There’s guys that have similar injuries to this, like Kyler Murray and Hendon Hooker, who have decided not to play this season. I’m grinding and doing everything I possibly can, and the fact that I’m going out there and practicing, I’m ahead of schedule,” Rising said. “I’m trying to make sure I can be out there because nobody wants to be out there with those guys grinding on the field more than me. But at the end of the day, it’s my body. My body has to recover, and there’s not really anyone that can say much besides the best doctor in the world, Dr. ElAttrache down in L.A., can say. I haven’t really talked to any other doctor about my knee.”

Rising’s status has been a weekly subject and source of speculation surrounding the Utah program. Asked Tuesday what is keeping Rising from returning to action, Whittingham said: “You have to ask his doctor.”

“We hope to know early next week rather than later in the week what the situation is. I think one of the problems is we’ve been waiting until the end of the week, but we’re going to get an answer early next week as to who’s going to go,” Whittingham said.

In Rising’s absence, Utah started the season 4-0 and climbed to tenth in the AP Top 25 before falling 21-7 on the road to then-No. 19 Oregon State last Friday. Now ranked No. 18 in the country, the Utes have struggled mightily on offense as they’ve dealt with an array of injuries beyond just Rising. Bryson Barnes and Nate Johnson have shared the quarterback duties with Rising sidelined.

Utah has a bye this week before hosting Cal on Oct. 14. If Rising is not cleared, and with Barnes now dealing with an injury of his own, Whittingham said Tuesday that Johnson would start vs. the Golden Bears with Brandon Rose and walk-on Luke Bottari competing for backup reps.

If Rising can finally suit up, it would be a big boost for the Utes. After the Cal game, the Utes will go on the road to face No. 9 USC before hosting No. 8 Oregon. A trip to play No. 7 Washington is also on the schedule for Nov. 11.

“I’ve just been focused on continuing to improve each and every day,” Rising said. “I know I’m getting closer and I’ve got to keep making the days count. I’ll be back as soon as I’m ready to go.”

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